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Risk of Tetanus

The risk of tetanus is pretty much everywhere as the organism that causes it, Clostridium tetani, lives in soil and manure and it enters the body through wounds.1,2

Horses are particularly at risk because of their environment and tendency to injure themselves.2

The good news, however, is that tetanus is not contagious, so it is not passed from horse to horse.

Sources of contamination

  • Horses can become infected through gastric or intestinal ulcers after eating contaminated soil or droppings.
  • Wounds, especially deep wounds, are a key source of infection. Common sites of infection are the soles of the horse’s feet, although even a simple thorn prick can allow the bacteria to enter the body2 Surgical wounds are another possible source of entry for the bacteria.
  • Foals can become infected via their navel where the umbilical cord was attached2
  • The mare’s reproductive tract may also become infected, if it’s damaged or the placenta is retained.

Minimising risk

Tetanus can be avoided with vaccination.2

Ensure your mares are well-vaccinated before having a foal: foals may not respond to vaccines early in life so it is important they receive protection via their mother’s milk.

Remember that humans can get tetanus too, so ensure your own tetanus vaccination is up-to-date.




  1. Hoare R. Horse health – vaccination against tetanus and strangles. PrimeFact 495, June 2007. NSW Department of Primary Industries.
  2. Queensland Horse Council Inc. Tetanus Fact Sheet, May 2010.